Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Google Forms Getting Better and Better

Great news came through the Google Apps Update Alerts that is specific to Google Forms.  There were three big changes that will make Google Forms even better for the use in the classroom.  Some of the changes do not appear on my Google Apps for Education Account but are already available on my personal account.  Here is a quick preview of what has changed:

Shuffle Questions:  By checking the box "Shuffle Question Order" which appears in the Form Settings, a user will find the questions are put in a different order per user.  According to the Article in the user settings, this will also shuffle the images and videos along with you form.  There is no mention of how things are recorded on the response spreadsheet, but through tests I did determine that the shuffled questions are still recorded in the proper order making grading and scripts still usable.
Allow One Response Per Person:  By checking this box, you would be able to limit people form making multiple responded.  This is great in the classroom where students are voting or should only have one attempt at the form.  This can actually be done without collecting a user name as the form will ask for the user to sign in, but the form does not collect the information only uses it to be sure duplicate responses are not allowed.

Shorter URL's:  When you have finished the form and click "Send Form" at the end of the form a new option will appear as shown.  You can still use the regular URL generated, or you can select for Google to shorten the URL right from this box by clicking the box next to "short URL" and the URL will be changed to a shortened version that you can still copy.  While I think this is a great tool, for younger kids I still prefer a URL shortener that allows you to customize the extension of the URL.

Search it:  Much like you see in Doc and Slides, you will now see a "search the menu" shortcut that will allow you to get to many of the features in Firms without having to find the option in the menus.  If you want to Insert an Image, you can easily use this search area and type"image" or the keystroke Alt+/ and "image" and it will open that feature for you.  The option as shown below appears if you have minimized the menus.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teacher Created Media-Rich Lessons

This week I had the opportunity to engage in some great discussions with some great educators about the use of podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts, and the creation of flipped lessons.  Some of the discussion called for defining each of these terms, and it brought me back to geometry classes in which we evaluated if every square was a rhombus.  While I don't think that educators need to get hung up on the similarities and differences of this media knowing about them is important.  We need to know when we use each tool and how we can do so with great integrity. If we teach through video in the same manner that we teach live in the classroom, we will miss the mark. Planning and being sure to select the correct media for each purpose is key as we create.   We need to always be mindful that we should not be after the cool factor but to strive for excellent lessons that result in optimal learning.  

Not too long ago I led a Flipped Classroom Study with educators and we studied the book, Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  This easy to read book provided early adopters with a path, purpose and direction for creating these lessons. Our group created, evaluated and refined various forms of videos created using a variety tools.  Some were screencasts, some vodcasts but all were made using the principles we studied, outlined, and agreed upon by our group to encourage and maintain quality lessons.  Our group evaluated lessons made by other individuals and really looked into the do's and don'ts of creating quality media for instructional purposes.  For the most part, video creation and selection seemed to be best over audio for various reasons.  As I have reflected on this recent conversations, this study group's work, and additional research I have done, these points seemed to emerge:


Consider your Purpose ~ Are you using this method because it is something that will enhance the learning experience?  From the learner perspective, will the process of rewinding, fast forwarding, reviewing, etc. add to the lesson?  If you are going to do the same task in person and it is not interesting when you do it in the classroom, then it will be even less interesting in audio or video.  
Consider your audience ~   Just like writing an essay, creating media for instruction requires you to consider your audience and their needs.  What format should the media be in?  Do the students have the ability to even get to the media?  Is a podcast, vodcast, or screencast the best resource? What ways can they consume the content?  
Write a script/build slides ~ Know your objective for the media you are creating and don't allow yourself to get off task.  Make sure you are teaching the lesson the way that you want it to be.  Use the appropriate vocabulary and terms.  Having a script and main ideas for each image, drawing and gesture help to make interesting videos.  A script forces you to make you point and be clear while winging-it allows us to drone on without the same focus. You need not read it verbatim, but be sure that you have determined what is important to say.  Allow for spontaneity and humor, but remain clear
Practice ~ This is your chance to shine, so practice. Make sure you are very familiar with the content and script so that you have less likelihood of verbal stumbling that can be distracting.  Know how to use the technology tools you want to use and be sure that they are useful and not distracting.  

The Production

Be Interesting ~ Animate your voice as if there really are students in the room.  Say it all with a smile but don't overdo the enthusiasm and make the inflections natural.  
Keep it Short ~ Make sure you teach one topic per video.  If you have more than one topic you will get more mileage by splitting videos.  A learner will remain focused for about 5 minutes.  
Cut to the Chase ~  Only record what is needed.  It is much better to suggest to the learner that before they view the video they have read content than to show the page and read it to them.  Instead, summarize what they should have read and suggest that if they have not, they should pause there and re-read.  
Annotate ~ When possible annotate or write rather than have the information already on the page. This adds interest and personality.
Reduce Clutter ~ Be sure you don't record with toolbar showing and other clutter on the page.  You don't want the student focused on the the next tool in the toolbar rather than the content.  
Always Strive for Quality ~ Make sure that the work is easy to see, read and hear.  Nothing is more frustrating than having the desire to learn but the quality of the recording getting in the way.  
Copyright - Follow copyright laws in each and every production.

The Product

Share ~ Make sure the place that you share your content is accessible to all those who might need to see it wherever they might be.  Just because you can click the link and see your video, doesn't mean that your users can too.  Use Google's Incognito mode to check your links.
Instruct ~ Teach your students and parents how to view this media.  Many teachers develop viewing guides.  One idea WSQ - Watch, Summarize, Question outlines how students manage the information.  Other important element is teaching kids that they can pause, rewind and rewatch.  This might seem obvious, but is worth reviewing.  If the media is not too lengthy then students are more likely to re-watch when they need to relearn.  
Watch and Learn~ Watch your own video and those others make.  You will be much more critical of your own mistakes, but consider what you can learn from making each lesson and keep notes so that the skill will grow from video to video.  While it is an exercise to teach your students, many teachers find they become better teachers by watching themselves teach.  Don't pass up this opportunity.  
Collaborate on Completion ~ Have a trusted colleague watch you video.  It’s possible they may see something that you do not and have ideas for the next one.

Overall, the process becomes more and more natural as you work through it.  You don’t want to get stuck on the technology and flipping lessons is not about the videos but the quality lessons.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Google Maps in the Classroom

Google Maps are not just for getting around when you don't know your way...

Google offers some great ways to make use of maps in the classroom.  They offer tutorials and resources for all types of map use.  From beginning tutorials to more complex, there is a lot to consider.  One thing is for certain, this is a resource I wish I saw more use of in the classroom.

Here are a few ideas that I found as I did some exploring:

Google Earth - Allows students to interact with and explore the world in ways unique to the computer experience.  While we would all love to head out to Rome and see the history and artifacts there, Google Earth uses imagery that allows kids to travel back in time and view different locations to see how they have changed.  with resources that show ideas such as they US Presidents or the trail of Lewis and Clark, this resource will add amazing depth to your units of study.  Explore 3D imagery of locations such as Mars in Google Earth or the landing sites of the moon.  Students can make use of Real World Math and other lesson plans that use Google Earth to learn new skills.  Additionally, Using Tours you can create and play tours of places and content.  Tours are a "flying" Google Earth experience in which students will be able to view terrain, maps and navigate using 3D images and even audio.  So much to explore.

Google Maps - One of the many resources that Google provides to users is the Google Map.  There are many ways in which you can use Google Maps each allowing for different ideas within the classroom.  One of my favorite ways to make use of Maps is to use Maps Engine to build your own map.  The tool allows you to draw on a map, enter and visualize data, add layers and set specific points for various resources.  An easy to follow tutorial can be found here.

Additional Resources:

Google Maps in the Classroom - Created by CUE and WestEd for Google
Google Maps - from Teaching History
How to Create a Map Using Google Maps Engine
40+ Ideas on Using Google Earth and Maps in the Classroom


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Booktrack Classroom

Reading on a digital device is what you make of it, but reading on a digital devices that has an enhanced effects is really fun!  That is what Booktrack Classroom is all about.  This great site allows a teacher to create a book or essay to be published  for students with enhancements in the form of a movie-style soundtrack and sound effects.  Studies cited on the website indicate that there is a significant increase in comprehension and engagement for those students who read using Booktrack.  Booktrack is an app in the Google Chrome Webstore!
Creating an account, class and students seems to be simple.  See blow for information on Terms of Service.  I am excited to see how this can be used with text from a site such as Newsela with the added soundtrack enhancements to engage students with text right at their level.  Another really great tool natural to reading text using Booktrack is that you can adjust the pace of the track to provide the reader with a more successful pace of reading.  Students that create and publish their own writing through this site can then add a soundtrack to their own work, adding interest and excitement.  
The Terms of Service on this site indicate you cannot create and account for kids under 13 although that is unclear as the teacher blogs are very clear about its use with kids at the elementary level.  I have written the help desk for clarification to see if that only applies for the creation studio or if it apples to all around use.  I'll update this post if I hear back.  

Here's a great video that will give you an idea of how this tool works: 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Get Super Excited About Super Quiz - One Awesome Add On!

I am super excited about Super Quiz!  There are a few really great Add Ons out there for Google Docs.  Super Quiz, an Add On available for Google Sheets has enormous potential for teachers that like to use Google Form to get a quick assessment for student work.  What makes Super Quiz a more useful tool that Flubaroo, another tool used to grade or score a Google Form, is the Super Quiz will not only mark the answers of each student's submission, but it will grade upon submission, created a breakdown of scores in an easy to view format, allows for the teacher to generate personalized feedback of the performance of each quiz for each student as well as send the feedback pages to the students.  That seems awesome enough, but the teacher can also create a "trigger" that will grade the form upon submission so that the entire process becomes an automatic process.  
I see this being used in several ways for a classroom.  Here are just a few of the ways I can see this being really helpful for a classroom:

  1. Pretests for students prior to instruction.
  2. Forms set up to be study guides/review for an upcoming assessment.  Upon completion students receive a personalized document with suggested study paths for the larger assessment.
  3. To assist students in selecting a preference for an upcoming project or learning style.  A form is created in which students mark their likes and dislikes.  Upon completion, Super Quiz's evaluation sends a suggested resource and path based on their responses. 
  4. Combined with the use of Flipped Learning Instructional Videos to assist students in self-differentiating and choosing applicable learning.
  5. Results collected through Super Quiz can guide instructional groups within the classroom to target learning needs of the classroom. 
***Outside of the classroom I have Super Quiz running on some self-guided Google Apps for Education professional development to assist the teachers in determining what areas they need to concentrate their time on.  It seems to be running really well.

Setting up Super Quiz takes a little time although it is something that once you learn and understand it, it gets easier each time.  The creator of Super Quiz has a great tutorial video here.  Although lengthy it really helped me to set up the one that I have running complete with a trigger.  In addition, there is a step-by-step tutorial on the Super Quiz creator's website here.